Today you are nine years old. As I write this, I have just finished making your birthday video, and it's strange to look back over the past year and see how different the beginning of it was from now. And I wonder what you will remember from this time. You'll remember the time we've all spent at home together, and the time we've spent apart from others, I'm sure. You'll probably remember distance learning, too—it's not your favorite thing, but you've still been getting your schoolwork done almost entirely on your own. What else? Virtual sleepovers, sourdough bagels, instant noodles, Roblox, painting. It's been challenging, but I hope you'll have some good memories to take forward from this year, too. I think you will.
But that's all yet to come still. However you remember this time later, right now you are nine years old, you are excited for your birthday, and you are a great kid. You're smart and funny and fun to be around, and I'm so glad that I get to be a part of your life, and that I have you in mine.
Happy birthday, my girl! I hope this day and the whole year to come bring you so many good things.
Soundtrack: "Wanderlust (Instrumental)" by JB Lucas. Licensed from Marmoset Music.
#MatteredToMe - September 17, 2020: Three Podcasts
- This conversation between Jeannie Vanasco and David Naimon about Vanasco's book Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl was thought-provoking and nuanced on a difficult topic.
- Brandon Taylor and Garth Greenwell are two of my favorite people to hear talking about art and books and writing, and their "Queer Beatitudes" talk from this year's Tin House summer workshop was such a joy to listen to.
- Finally, Scene On Radio re-ran their season 1 episode "Hearing Hiroshima" last month. It's about the legacy of war, about cultural memory, about peace, about atrocities committed by and upon Japan. Felt very relevant to right now in the US.
As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. I'm trying very hard right now to both keep perspective about my life and privileges and honor my feelings and struggles for what they are. If you're having trouble with that, too, just know you're not alone.
Thank you, and take care.
New KTCO: David Adjmi
This week on Keep the Channel Open, I'm talking with writer and playwright David Adjmi. In his new memoir Lot Six, David tells the story of how he found himself through art and the theater, growing up feeling like an outsider as a gay, atheist, artistic youth in a small and insular Syrian Sephardic Jewish community in Brooklyn. In our conversation, David and I discussed the craft of memoir, the process of constructing one’s own identity, and why his book isn’t structured like the typical gay narrative. Then in the second segment, we discussed how the pandemic is affecting our ability to make narratives, and how art can function as a community.
Here are some links to where you can listen to the episode:
You can also listen to the full episode and find show notes and a transcript at the episode page at the KTCO website.
#MatteredToMe - September 4, 2020: And Yet You Do
- In his newsletter a couple of weeks ago, Jamelle Bouie wrote about the ineffectiveness of non-voting as a means of pressuring political candidates. This may be obvious to many people, but in case it isn't, I thought he laid out very well why it doesn't work.
- I spent some time recently catching up on podcasts from earlier in lockdown, and this episode of VS with Chris Abani was great. Such an interesting discussion of how language shapes one's understanding of space and time.
- Alexander Chee wrote about the Japanese occupation of Korea, and how the scars of that time are still felt, both in his family and in Korea and the Korean diaspora. For me, learning about the occupation of Korea changed a lot about how I understood Japan and Japanese-ness and Japanese American-ness. Reading this, it deepens that new understanding, but also makes me think about how our understanding of America and American-ness is changing and must change.
- In a recent installment of his newsletter The Reading, Yanyi wrote about acknowledging the pain of living through world change, and the need and desire for community. It was exceptionally generous, I thought.
- Hai-Dang Phan's poem "My Father's "Norton Introduction to Literature," Third Edition (1981)" is about language and migration and family, the power of literature and (I think) its limitations. Such a beautiful, amazing poem.
- Finally, Jesmyn Ward wrote about personal loss and collective grief, about how the pandemic and protests and our responses to them are both individual and shared, intimate and massive. What a gift this essay is.
As always, this is just a portion of what mattered to me recently. It is a lot, this feeling of being broken by the world again and again, and more and more. It is a lot, and too much, to where we feel we cannot go on. And yet you do. I see you.
Thank you, and take care.